Emmalina sat on the double bed, her eyes moving slowly over the words on the page in front of her. That was how she’d spent most of her time the last two weeks since she had begun living with Kayne’s family. Everything was so strange and dark; she rarely left the bedroom she’d been given.
After a quiet knock, Myrcella, Kayne’s younger sister, stepped into the room. “Hey, why don’t you come downstairs? Quinn and I were going to play cards.”
“I don’t know…” Emmalina hesitated. She missed being around people and Quinn and Myrcella had been the kindest to her, but that kindness was outweighed by how terrifying their mother was.
Myrcella smiled. “Don’t worry; Mom’s not home. She won’t be back until late.”
A timid smile crossed Emmalina’s face. “Well, alright then.” She lumbered to her feet, crossing the short space to the door. It was so much more difficult to do anything now; she felt as large as the house they were in. Part of her still thought she must be having some kind of fever dream. How could this all be happening to her?
“How are you feeling?” Myrcella asked at the bottom of the stairs.
Emmalina rubbed her stomach. “I had really bad heartburn earlier, but now I’m feeling okay.” She glanced around the room, hoping to find Kayne there, who she’d barely seen since she got there. What she found instead made her gasp softly.
“What?” Myrcella turned to follow her gaze.
Nestled between the bookshelf and the supply shelves was her easel. Emmalina knew that it could only be hers; it had the same paint splatters. Kayne got it for me?
“So that’s what he was doing last night,” Myrcella said with a soft smile.
Tears pricked at Emmalina’s eyes. Her father had built that easel for her himself out of wood scraps when she’d asked to do more than draw at the table. Together with the necklace she wore, which had belonged to her mother, it was her most precious possession.
“There’s other stuff downstairs,” Kayne said. She hadn’t even noticed him there by the window. “Paintings, canvases. There wasn’t room up here,” he said gruffly.
She smiled and walked over to the easel, reaching out to touch it. “Thank you. You don’t know what this means to me.”
“I knew you’d want them.”
The way he looked at her made her heart flip in her chest. Where has he been? Why has he avoided me?
After she’d woken up in his bed, they’d talked. She’d told him how her mother had died just weeks after he left, and how it had taken her a couple of months to realize she was pregnant. Leaving her home to look for him had been the hardest thing she’d ever done, not just because she had no idea how to actually find him. She’d just asked for a big scarred man called Kayne wherever she went.
She’d hoped they would be together, that perhaps the spark that they had felt before was still there. Yet he’d avoided her, never tried to sleep beside her at night. This was the most they’d interacted.
“Would you take a walk with me?” She asked suddenly without even really planning to say it. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she knew why she’d asked; he was going to disappear on her in a few seconds, but he would never leave her alone if they were outside. Even if it was only about the baby she carried, she knew he would protect her.
His brows arched in surprise. “I thought you’d want to paint now that you can.”
Emmalina glanced longingly at the easel but shook her head. “When we get back, I’ll paint the landscape, maybe. I haven’t been outside since I got here.” When she’d left home, she’d abandoned her job at the sign painting store, so she hadn’t even left the house to go to work.
“Quinn could take you for a walk,” Kayne hedged.
“Please, Kayne? I feel safe with you.”
He exhaled a soft sigh and nodded before leading their way to the door.
The midafternoon sun was hot and bright. Though the desert heat was almost oppressive, it felt good to be outdoors in the fresh air instead of inside the dark, cramped house.
They walked in silence. She didn’t know where they were going, but, under Kayne’s guidance, they found their way to the river. Emmalina slowed her pace and looked around the beautiful scenery. It was truly lovely there, much like it had been at home.
“Kayne,” she said quietly, looking up at him. “Are you angry at me? I know I’ve become a burden to you. I wouldn’t blame you if you hated me now.”
Kayne rubbed his face and pinched the bridge of his nose. “No,” he said finally. “I’m not angry, and, God, I couldn’t hate you, Emmalina.”
“I don’t know what to do with you. It was simpler when there was an expiration date on us.”
She smiled slightly; she knew just what he meant. “I agree, actually. But we can’t really go on like this, can we? It’s not a big house.”
“No, we can’t.” He reached out and stroked her cheek gently. “If anything, shouldn’t you hate me? I did this to you. I forced you into the circumstances that made you leave your home.”
Emmalina tilted her head into his caress. “How could I hate you for giving me the most wonderful night of my life?” She shook her head. “I think I would’ve looked for you even if I wasn’t pregnant. Without Mom…there was just nothing there for me anymore.” She looked up at him from under her lashes. “I’m not sure there’s anything here either, though. I thought there might be, but…”
“I think there is,” he admitted roughly. “Jesus, Emmalina, the way you make me feel…It scares me. And I don’t like being scared.” He brushed a stray lock of hair from her face.
She was about to respond when a strong kick made her gasp. When the kicking continued, she smiled up at Kayne. “Would you like to feel your child?”
Hesitantly, he let her guide his hands to her stomach. The moment he felt the first kicks, his face took on a look of wonder. It made her heart squeeze. That look…it reassured her. Everything would be alright.